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Man executed for killing two jailers during failed escape bid in 2000

Michael Tisius shot two men dead at Randolph County Jail in an attempt to spring inmate Roy Vance.

Michael Tisius
Michael Tisius

A Missouri man who shot and killed two jailers nearly 23 years ago during a failed bid to help an acquaintance escape from a rural jail has been executed.

Michael Tisius, 42, received a lethal injection of pentobarbital at the state prison in Bonne Terre and was pronounced dead at 6.10pm local time on Tuesday (12.10am on Wednesday BST), US authorities said.

He was convicted of the killings of Leon Egley and Jason Acton on June 22 2000 at the minor Randolph County Jail.

Tisius breathed hard a few times as the drug was administered, then fell silent. His spiritual adviser, Melissa Potts-Bowers, was in the room with him. Because the execution chamber is surrounded by soundproof glass, it is not known what they were saying to each other.

In a final written statement, Tisius said he tried hard “to become a better man”, and he expressed remorse for his crimes.

“I am sorry,” he wrote. “And not because I am at the end. But because I truly am sorry.”

Tisius’ lawyers had urged the US supreme court to block the execution, alleging in appeals that a juror at a sentencing hearing was illiterate, in violation of Missouri law. The court rejected that motion on Tuesday afternoon.

Michael Tisius
Michael Tisius shot two men dead in 2000 (AP)

The supreme court previously turned aside another argument – that Tisius should be spared because he was just 19 at the time of the killings.

A 2005 ruling bars executions of those under 18 when their crime occurred, but lawyers for Tisius had argued that even at 19, when the killings occurred, Tisius should have had his sentence commuted to life in prison without parole.

Advocates for Tisius had said he was largely neglected as a child and was homeless by his early teens. His path to the death chamber began in 1999 when, as an 18-year-old, he was jailed on a misdemeanour charge of pawning a rented stereo system.

In June 2000, Tisius was housed on that charge at the same county jail in Huntsville with inmate Roy Vance. Tisius was about to be released, and court records show the men discussed a plan in which Tisius, once he was out, would help Vance escape.

Just after midnight on June 22 2000, Tisius went to the jail accompanied by Vance’s girlfriend, Tracie Bulington. They told Mr Egley and Mr Acton that they were there to deliver cigarettes to Vance.

At trial, Bulington testified that she looked up and saw Tisius with the gun drawn, then watched as he shot and killed Mr Acton. When Mr Egley approached, Tisius shot him, too. Both officers were unarmed.

Tisius and Bulington fled but their car broke down later that day in Kansas. They were arrested in Wathena, Kansas, about 130 miles west of Huntsville. Tisius confessed to the crimes.

Sid Conklin, now presiding commissioner of Randolph County, was a Missouri State Highway Patrol officer who investigated the killings in 2000. Mr Conklin said the deaths of the two jailers – who were both in their 30s – still haunt the community.

“I hope this brings closure for all citizens of Randolph County,” said Mr Conklin, who witnessed the execution.

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